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With Gen Z More Eager Than Others to Return to the Office, Companies Make Compromises

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Mar 23, 2023

The members of the cohort known as Generation Z—those born between 1997 and 2012—generally want to go back to the office more than other cohorts, so a hybrid model may meet their needs best, coaching consultant and author Jenn Lim wrote in Fast Company.

Asking if people are being thrust into working environments without any consideration of the long-term consequences of trying to balance older generations with Gen Z, she presented arguments for “meeting in the middle.”

Noting that the oldest Gen Z-er is only 26 and may have worked for a only few years before the pandemic, she wrote that this generation “hope[s] to see the future of work differently than their older colleagues.” She cited an Axios survey that found that 74 percent of young people said that they would miss the office community if they had to continue to work remotely, and that 41 percent said that they would miss the mentoring.

While this cohort may yearn for more human connection, a November 2022 survey of almost 10,000 workers by consulting firm Accenture revealed that 83 percent of them preferred a hybrid model. The survey also reported that businesses are investing in the onsite work environment. Some, such as Apple and Amazon, which have tried to mandate in-office workdays, have encountered resistance; more than over half Apple’s employees have threatened to quit over the mandate, Lim reported. She posited that the reason for the threats could be that Apple did not offer an all-remote option.

She cited companies such as 3M, Spotify, and Hubspot, which have “met in the middle” by implementing hybrid-plus- remote work models, which give employees a choice between going into the office some or all of the time, or working remotely some or all of the time.

This model “gives Gen Zers the choice to escape cramped housing quarters and feel what it’s like to thrive in the office and read actual body language,” she wrote, while providing  “other age groups [with] the ability to integrate home and work in a way that supports one another.”

But, she cautioned, it is “important not to give too much choice either. Free-for-all scheduling is a recipe for inefficient asynchronous work and dysfunctional teams.” She advised employers to “provide choices only after some attentive listening …, design options for connectedness and productivity, then test to see what works and what doesn’t,” while acknowledging that compromises must be made on all sides.

“In this battle over where generations want to work, companies can meet in the middle by extending autonomy and letting employees make choices that align with who they are and want to be as individuals and together as communities,” she concluded.